Sunday, April 11, 2021


I was awake early, again, this morning, around 5:30, as the first birds started to sing. One by one, two by two, others joined in until I was enjoying a stereo performance through both of our open bedroom windows. Unable to sleep, I listened for more than an hour. The big fat cliché is that birds create a symphony or an orchestra with their songs, and to actively listen does give that impression, with the quiet start of a bird or two and then the increasing layers of song that build a dimensional dome of music. But there's little that's ordered or composed about the mess of bird song—it's a cacophony, really, the only counterpoint, structure, or sympathy among the "musicians" supplied by me, lying there awake, willing an order or beauty to the randomness of sound. More avant-garde than classical. I'm not an ornithologist, yet I recognize that there are patterns and purpose to the birds' singing—they're out there hungry or looking for mates, or both, or just saying hey to the new day, in full-throated conversation—but I'm the one inside with the tired metaphors, the boring tropes, imagining a swelling of orchestral beauty within the chaos of a species that's just going about its native business of surviving, mordantly indifferent to me under the blankets. None of what I observed this morning was original—for thousands of years' folks have been moved by hearing, or imagining, a kind of aesthetics in the animal kingdom—but that my thoughts aren't at all that new and yet arrived in such an unbidden and engrossing way, and will, tomorrow, to someone else across the globe, is itself startling, and moving. One's thoughts feel novel first thing in the morning, and that's a beautiful thing.

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